April 22, 2020

Starsteaders 0.1.6 (the Elevation update) is out!

It's been a little while and a few life events have happened (for everybody), but progress continues on the game. If you haven't checked in for a little while, it looks very different now!

Here are the major changes:

New terrain generation

I swapped out the old terrain generation for a new algorithm that makes more interesting patches of terrain. The old system generated big curvy landscapes that were very predictable. The new system creates big patches of different biomes and I think it's a lot more interesting to walk around. Plus it will give me more control when it comes to creating interesting planets. If you're familiar with the game "Don't Starve", the new terrain generation reminds me of that a little bit.

New terrain tiling system

The old way of doing tiles just wasn't working for me - it was kind of a weird technical solution and that made it hard to experiment visually. The new system makes it a lot easier to experiment visually (and I've done just that with a bunch of free textures thanks to 3dtextures.me). I still don't like the way biome transitions happen (it's very abrupt), but I think this is a big step forward in terms of being able to make better aesthetic choices.

Different elevation levels

Planets now feature procedurally generated elevation levels. If you approach a different elevation level, you'll jump up or down. This started out as a quick experiment but I think it really adds some visual variety to the terrain.

New water shader

With the new tiles, the old water shader looked pretty out of place. So I wrote a new one from scratch, which was pretty fun - it's not super sophisticated but I learned some things about shaders and the way lighting works in relation to water. The more I learn about art and visuals, the more I end up thinking about light.

New scale

The overall scale of the game has changed a bit and the camera is closer in to the player as well. This is an experimental change somewhat inspired by Animal Crossing: New Horizons.

What's next?

I think next I want to focus on player starships for a little bit. There's a ton of work to be done everywhere, but starships are a big part of the game and they haven't gotten much attention yet. So I want to make it so your starship looks a bit more like a starship (instead of just a platform in space), and actually allows you to travel between planets. So look for that in the next update!

Full patch notes:

  • New terrain generation algorithm allows for different biomes
  • New tiling system and terrain shader allows for more versatile terrain visuals and multiple elevation levels
  • Added a bunch of experimental biome visuals and a starship floor texture
  • New water visuals look more tonally appropriate
  • Terrain generation includes different elevation levels that you can jump between
  • Terrain now has colliders so you can't walk into water
  • Switched to using Cinemachine for the camera so there's a little smoothing as the camera follows you around
  • The camera is now much closer to the player and at a less steep angle so you can see the player model better
  • Zoom in on the player a bit when sitting in a Drop Pod
  • Player model scaled up a bit, along with some other objects, in relation to the terrain tiles
  • Player movement has been rewritten in a way that works with the new terrain colliders
  • In-game news loads thumbnail images rather than the full sized ones so it should load a bit faster
  • Loading messages throughout the game are now contextualized rather than just saying "Please wait"
  • Tweaked the start menu visuals a bit and added a disclaimer to say that Starsteaders is in very early development

If you'd like to show support for my game, please join my Discord as that is very encouraging to me (even if you don't say anything). Or you could follow me on Twitter. And if you want to give Starsteaders a try, you can download it for Windows on this page. I'd love to hear what you think!